When two of the most acclaimed modern explorers of Cuban music combine their prodigious talents on the music they love, musical magic happens. That is demonstrated in truly enchanting fashion on Rhapsody Cubana, the debut duet recording by Jane Bunnett and Hilario Duran. (Left, click for high res.) They are both virtuoso players, arrangers, composers, and bandleaders in their own right and their shared musical history and close personal friendship now spans 21 years. In 1990, Jane and Larry Cramer were in Havana to record her ground-breaking and Juno Award-winning album, Spirits Of Havana. Bunnett picks up the story, recalling that "our great friend Guillermo Barreto acted as our producer on the Cuban side. We told him we needed a piano player who had a real sense of jazz but also a respect and love for the folkloric music of Cuba. He said 'I know exactly who you want,' and he introduced us to Hilario. He could barely speak any English and was really shy, but he was great. We were immediately on the same page musically."
Duran terms this meeting "destiny. It changed my life." He's not exaggerating, for Bunnett and Cramer later sponsored Hilario and his family as immigrants to Canada, the country they've called home since 1998.
Both Duran and Bunnett are famed for their innovative take on contemporary Latin jazz and Cuban styles. In fact, in 2002 Bunnett received the prestigious Smithsonian Institute Award, "for contributions and dedication to the development of Latin jazz." On Rhapsody Cubana, she and Duran they go back to the roots. The album is best described as an exploration of Cuban classical music, and the results are both educational and accessible. This is a style little known in North America and Europe, though it is deeply appreciated in Cuba and Latin America. It is brought to vivid life here, thanks to Hilario's ever-fluent and dazzlingly accomplished piano playing and Jane's melodic contributions on soprano saxophone and flute.
Jane and Hilario are happily committed to live performance of this material in Canada and beyond in the months ahead including, lucky for us, this stop in the Valley at the Iron Horse. Tickets for Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran Friday, July 15th at the Iron Horse at 7PM are available at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686, and online at IHEG.com.
Also coming to the Iron Horse on Tuesday, July 26th, Sierra Maestra plus Westfield’s own Grupo Canela
Sierra Maestra have been stars of Cuban music ever since the late 1970s. Indeed, their ex-leader, Juan De Marcos González was the man who created Buena Vista Social Club while still with the band. They were the first group, and remain the best, of the modern era to play in the old-style son line-up: tres, guitar, trumpet, bongo, güiro and vocals - as during the great days of the 1920s and ‘30s. They have been the pioneers in reviving, and now redefining this style for new generations and reintroducing it into the Cuban mainstream. Opening the evening is renowned local Grupo Canela, a family ensemble that plays Jibaro music -- a style of folk music first developed in the rural, mountainous interior of Puerto Rico.